Does your jaw feel strained and stiff when you wake up in the morning? Have you noticed your front teeth appear “flattened” or “worn down” on the biting surfaces? Have you experienced sensitive teeth? There is a possibility that you may be grinding your teeth! This can only be confirmed by a dental practitioner who will need to assess your chewing muscle groups, your teeth and symptoms.
Bruxism is the involuntary clenching or grinding of teeth that can occur in the day time or during the night, when we have no conscious control over our chewing muscles. The causes of bruxism are a combination of psychological and physical factors including physical stresses, nutritional deficiencies, dehydration, anxiety and abnormal teeth and jaw anatomy. Signs and symptoms of bruxism include sensitive teeth, facial pain, stiff and pain in jaw joint muscles, fractured teeth and fillings and loose teeth.
If your dentist is suspicious that you grind your teeth, they may recommend stress management, relaxation, massage therapy, anti-inflammatories, counselling and a night guard. A night guard (occlusal splint) is a custom fit clear guard that covers the biting surfaces of the teeth. It is designed to be worn at night time. This does not prevent nocturnal bruxism but relieves pressure in the jaw joint and effectively prevents tooth wear from grinding. Occlusal splints last for a few years and wear down over time, warranting replacement. A night guard works best in conjunction with stress management, so it is advised to address stress factors through coping strategies for the best outcome.
If you are suspicious that you grind your teeth, make an appointment with your dental practitioner and they will be able to assess the severity of your tooth grinding and suggest therapy to reduce this habit if necessary.